GCW vs. ROW Sydney Review (25/08/2023)
(Image Credit: Renegades of Wrestling/GCW)
By Mick Robson
Patreons got this review first, as well as all the content The Arena puts out. For early access and to support the work we put in here, check out patreon.com/thearenamedia
Man, these weekends really creep up on me. Either I get a quiet one where nothing happens, or all the events at once. This past weekend was the latter. Friday night, I was there front row for the event we're about to review, drove up and back from Wollongong. Not a massive trip in of itself, but combined with everything else, a decent factor in how I'm currently feeling. Then Saturday night I went to Rock N Roll Wrestling- Badstreet Rules (the review is already up since it wasn't a broadcast show, so I had to rely on my sometimes shoddy memory to write it). Then I went home and watched the top fights on UFC Singapore, which saw fan favourite, the Korean Zombie retire after getting brutally KOed by Max Holloway. Then finally, I ran a crazy sleep schedule trying to watch AEW All In London live. Kinda failed, and I got through Zero Hour and the first hour of the main card before needing to crash.
I'd love to say it's because I'm not as young as I used to be, but even Mick in his teens to mid 20s loved his sleep. But I sit here on Monday night, finally caught up on All In (great show whiich we'll get into in another review), and ready to do a little writing. I am, however, not ready to do a strict play by play of all the insanity. It's on FITE+ if you must know every single move that happened.
Let's do this!
The FITE TV broadcast opens with an intro video of Aussie landmarks and GCW/ROW highlights, set to Men At Work's classic "Down Under". I was fortunate enough to be at Renegades debut show last year, where current champion Caveman Ugg faced JONAH- who now goes by Bronson Reed in the WWE. I also saw Renegades representing earlier this year at Knotfest in Sydney. As for GCW, I saw their Hammerstein Ballroom show, GCW vs. The World. So while I'm not a dedicated hardcore fan of either product, I've got enough familarity to get by here.
Julian James welcomes us to The Roundhouse as our ring announcer this evening. I will say- the overall production doesn't look great here. They've hired out an old Sydney ring, where the tape is falling off the ropes, the mats are awkwardly sticking out, the apron is too small for the ring, and there's no screens and nothing in the way of GCW/ROW branding visible. It looks extremely small-time and unpolished, and despite the "renegade" status of both promotions, they've both done worlds better than that producing from home. There's also a bit of social media beef regarding which Sydney wrestler the ring actually belongs to, with allegations of one wrestler stealing it from another, but we won't get into that here.
There's also audio issues as Everett Connors makes his way to the ring for the opening match, it's tough to hear commentary as our team of Piers Austin, Ed Lock and Criss Fresh chime in. Hopefully that rights itself in short order, otherwise I'll just have to scratch the FITE broadcast altogether and work from memory again.
Match 1: Robbie Eagles vs. Everett Connors vs. Lochy Hendricks
You really can't go wrong with a Robbie Eagles match. Technically, as good as it gets in Australia. He's developed more confidence in trash talk too, as he bites back at two hecklers giving him a hard time. Basically everyone else was pro-Robbie, they were just trying to be edgelords.
Fast exchange of holds between all three and a fun moment where they all attempt a dropkick then kip up. Connors and Hendricks both spill to the outside and Robbie wipes them both out with a plancha, to the delight of the crowd. The high risk moves continue with a double blockbuster by Connors back in the ring. Hendricks shows some innovation by hitting Robbie with a TKO onto Everett for a near fall. Never a dull moment with all three keeping up the pace and showing some urgency to get a big win and set the tone on this show.
Hendricks with probably the moment of the match, hitting a double poison rana. Commentary sound has cleared up a little and Piers Austin is being fun as a heel-leaning voice supporting Lochy. Everett comes back with a torture rack into a cutter, then a corkscrew splash on Lochy, but Robbie breaks up the pin. He picks up the pace some more with a springboard dropkick on Everett, followed by a running kick to end it! Great first match to start the show right. Production aside, the effort in the ring is world-class.
Winner: Robbie Eagles (at 11:36)
We get a pre-taped backstage promo from PPK. See, we didn't get this in the Roundhouse, because there were no screens. Nikki is confused about the pronunciation of "Bussy". Honestly, so was I, given that I've only seen it written down mostly- I may have heard it on that one GCW show I saw. I assume it rhymes with "pussy". Frankie B says that America loves Bussy, but Australia loves PPK, and there's only room for one queer icon here- and one hoe best friend. Their words, not mine!
Match 2: The Bastard Brothers (Gore & Krackerjak) vs. Back Pain (Backman & Gym Bro Jessie)
Jessie is replacing Jack, who apparently tore his rotator cuff. Wishing him a speedy recovery. Krackerjak cuts a pre-match promo, saying, "In case you don't know who to cheer for, I hate you and everything you stand for". He triples down, saying he hates our local sports teams and hopes our loved ones get sick- throwing out all the usual heel tropes which had me in actual tears of laughter. Some of the crowd appreciate it too, with a big 'Krackerjak" chant ringing out.
Gym Bro Jessie may be outsized, but shows zero fear, taking down Krackerjak and doing push ups on him! They engage in a mid-match push up contest, but Krackerjak takes the opportunity to attack her. Gore and Backman tag in for a battle of the beefy boys. Backman charges and eats the ring post, and Krackerjak takes the opportunity to use a staple gun on him behind the ref's back! Backman's a bloody mess, and Gore wipes the blood across his chest and delivers a few chops. Gore slams Backman, then slams Krackerjak onto Backman!
Backman rallies with a double clothesline then makes the hot tag to Jessie! She body slams Krackerjak, then- after a struggle- body slams Gore! Wow! Hogan/Andre moment, brother. Giant swing on Krackerjak, but Gore hits her mid-swing. Jessie hits him with a German Suplex and she's on fire! Back Pain set up for the Doomsday Device, but Krackers gets Jessie with the staple gun! Gore scoops Backman in a top rope powerslam and that'll do it!
Winners: The Bastard Brothers (at 9:07)
Great hoss battle- Gym Bro Jessie included. Jessie added a different element than Jack Pain would've, making it more of an underdog story, but she really shined in her power spots. Highly entertaing with a mix of wrestling, character work, and even some hardcore shenanigans with the staple gun.
A promo from Bussy airs. They confirm the pronunciation of their name, and then claim to be internationally loved. Effy asks Allie what they're going to do. Allie says, "oh no, I forgot", in a terrible nasally Aussie accent, before saying, "we're gonna win, bitch."
Match 3: Prima Pi Kappa (Nikki Van Blair & Frankie B) vs. Bussy (Effy & Allie Katch)
Great sound bite to kick us off- "this is going to be the gayest match I've ever called, and I'm here for it". Piers notes the similarities between the two teams, as they try and seduce each other in the early going to varying degrees of success- Frankie sticks her ass out a bit on an Effy waistlock attempt, which seems to have little effect. However, Nikki seems to do the trick for Effy when he tries similar shenanigans.
Nikki and Allie face off, and Van Blair shows impressive athleticism by cartwheeling his way out of trouble. A German suplex and tornado kick follows for a nice near fall. PPK with some nice tandem offense to follow, with a double Russian leg sweep/kick combo.
Allie fights back and makes the tag to Effy, who hits Nikki with a pair of atomic drops. We then see some tandem Bussy work, with a double running hip attack... and a double running... crotch attack? Hey, some people would pay to have that done to them. Then, we'll call it a flying seated senton for a near fall. Frankie throws caution to the wind by taking out Effy with a suicide dive, allowing Nikki to hit a top rope flying clothesline for a near fall.
Frankie in and she hits a curb stomp of sorts on Allie for another 2 count. PPK go for another double team, but Allie cracks their heads together and tags in Effy. He hits a top rope double blockbuster on PPK. Effy TKOs Frankie onto Nikki. That's two spots in a row directly lifted from the opener- did this show have a producer/agent? Bussy set up for the "Bussy Power Trip" but PPK escape- wait, was that going to be a Stunner/Pedigree combo? I appreciate the reference.
It looks like Nikki and Effy are about to have a romantic moment, but their partners break it up. They get slammed, Nikki kisses Effy- then rolls him up for a great near fall! Sneaky! PPK hit the double SOS for another close call. Effy comes back with a double Sack Ryder (don't shoot the messenger). Bussy hits the powerbomb/Rough Ryder combo for the win!
Winner: Bussy (at 13:20)
That whole thing was a blast! Silly, comedic, entertainment, but got just serious enough in points to let you know that all four wrestlers could go. A good story was told where Bussy may have underestimated PPK, and weren't expecting to have their own tactics used against them.
Match 4: Renegades of Wrestling Championship- Joey Janela vs. Caveman Ugg (c)
Bit of a mixed reaction for Janela, with the Sydney crowd solidly behind Ugg here. As Joey bails to ringside, the people really get on his case, causing him to lounge in a ringside chair and ultimately storm backstage. Eventually though, the lure of the Renegades Championship is too much to pass up, and he returns to the fight.
Ugg hits a monkey flip out of the corner and flicks a hair band at Janela. Classic. But Joey hits a charging Caveman with a drop toe hold and stomps him down in the corner. From there, he finds a way to deal with the size and physicality of Ugg, and it's a tale as old as time- man vs. door. Ugg charges again, Joey leap frogs, Ugg crashes into the door- but unlike your standard table, this is made of stronger stuff- likely from Bunnings- and it does not break!
Joey sets up the door in the corner and throws Ugg into it, but it stays strong. Ugg reverses a whip, sending Janela into it- we hear a slight crack... of the wood, hopefully. Ugg senses weakness and cannonballs right through Janela and the door, finally breaking it! Somehow, Joey kicks out of the following pin attempt.
Ugg goes up top, but Janela breaks off a piece of the door and hurls it at his head. Beautiful. He then superplexes Ugg onto the door fragment! Yay/boo strikes follow. Joey hits a V-Trigger and looks for the One Winged Angel but can't get Ugg up. Ugg hits a wild looking German suplex that sends Janela rolling to the floor. Hey, there's me on camera as I record content for a little YouTube highlights video (coming soon)! Ugg gives chase but Joey throws a chair at his head!
Back in the ring, Ugg misses a phoenix splash and Janela hits a Death Valley Driver for a near fall. We get a second door and the carnage continues. Joey sets Ugg up on the door, propped up on two chairs, and goes to the top rope. Ugg stops him and hits a Splash Mountain Bomb through the door- but Joey kicks out! The end is near though, and a Fire Thunder Driver on the door seals it. And still.
Winner: Caveman Ugg (at 20:52)
This was the first match on the show to really show why many see GCW as a modern day spiritual successor to the original ECW. Hardcore violence at a high level, and the impressive thing was that they didn't actually use many weapons- just two doors and two chairs. Ugg and Janela were just so creative and relentless with how they used the tools at hand. The crowd was firmly in support of their countryman Ugg, but Janela rightly received his flowers after that performance. That was a war worthy of the championship that was being contested, representing both Renegades and GCW proudly.
Intermission time, but since this is a taped broadcast, we go right to a promo from Steph De Lander. She calls GCW the "hottest indie promotion in the world"'. She's not scared of coming to Australia, it's a beautiful place with free healthcare. These days, SDL calls Florida home, where she sees homeless men fighting alligators. She's tired, bitter and angry and says, "no matter who they put against me on this tour... you're f**ked."
Match 5: Renegades of Wrestling Women's Championship- Steph De Lander vs. Lena Kross vs. Aysha (c)
Steph makes her entrance first, and cuts the same promo she did in Wagga a couple of months ago- first saying, "I'm home guys", and then flipping it saying, "I hate it here". Would have been far more effective a twist if she hadn't spent her entrance flipping the crowd off. She also responds to fans asking where Matt Cardona is- "that cheap f**k Brett Lauterdale wouldn't pay his rate!"
Ladies of Australian wrestling representing strongly on this show- we had PPK earlier, we've got these three (plus the excellent Referee Hannah) and the marquee match of Maki Itoh vs. Charli Evans next. Love to see it. Once the introductions take place, Lena and Steph laugh at Aysha- the champ is a far smaller competitor than the two towering challengers. A defiant Aysha responds by throwing forearms at them both, but it has little effect. A double shoulder block sends Aysha sprawling to ringside, and we get a faceoff between the powerhouses. SDL gets the advantage with a hair pull to a chorus of boos.
Aysha sneaks back in and gets a schoolboy for a near fall. A Steph clothesline immediately halts any chance at momentum. Steph isolates Aysha while not allowing Lena to return to the ring. Steph goes for the Death Adder but Aysha rakes the eyes to escape. There's an awkward bit where they seem frozen in time before Aysha low bridges SDL to ringside. Lena hits Aysha with a big boot in the corner, followed by a gordbuster for a near fall. Lena props Aysha on the ropes and hits a sliding German suplex. Steph drops Lena face first on the apron then gets in the ring to hit a boot to the midsection of Aysha for a 2 count.
Aysha hits a grazing spinning kick on Steph and looks for the same on Lena, but is caught. Aysha arm drags her way out and hits a Codebreaker. Aysha runs at Steph, but is caught and thrown off- into a DDT on Lena! Cool spot. Steph big boots Aysha, then Lena boots Steph. Test is looking down proudly with a tear in his eye. Tower of Doom and everyone's down. Two belts are introduced to use as weapons- the ROW Women's Championship and the Women's Internet title- but Aysha gets a roll up on Lena, with a pull of the tights, for the 3 count!
Winner: Aysha (at 8:53)
Came across a little better on a second viewing on FITE, but definitely had a few awkward moments and I've seen all 3 have better matches at various times. I think I was expecting a bit more with Steph and Lena facing off, and Steph's reliance on middle fingers and "f**k you"s to the crowd for heat wore thin, even in a relatively short match.
Match 6: Charli Evans vs. Maki Itoh
This was one of the matches I was most looking forward to when the line-up was announced. Maki Itoh captured my attention in her AEW appearances and subsequently on social media. A cute Japanese girl who appears to have learnt English from old ECW tapes and her time in the GCW locker room- as while her English is limited, her ability to swear is fluent. An interesting note from commentary during entrances- while Charli has appeared for both GCW and ROW, she's actually made more GCW appearances. In saying that, Renegades is a promotion that's only about a year old.
They really milk the crowd reaction on this one- and why not? The people are going nuts, so why kill each other... yet? Brief bit of chain wrestling then Charli offers a handshake, but Maki strikes a cute pose instead. Charli tries the "cute" thing as well but doesn't get the same reaction. I think she's pretty cute, tbh. I also think she could probably kill me, but cute nonetheless. Charli gets in Maki's face, who responds with "you are c**t". The crowd erupts and chants that exact phrase at Charli. What a moment!
They trade middle fingers, then forearms. Itoh with a shoulder block and then drops the "Iron Head" to the small of the back. Charli soon returns fire with the facewash boots in the corner. Basement cross body gets a near fall. Charli rams Maki's head into the corner... but it makes the "Iron Head" hulk up, and a singular headbutt drops Evans. 10 punches in the corner then a facewash of her own. DDT on the apron results in a close two count for Itoh. Ouch!
After a Boston Crab fails to get the job done, Maki grabs her trusty pizza cutter! Charli kicks it out of her hand then hits a knee strike and a fisherman suplex for a near fall. They exchange strikes and Charli pulls out a big clothesline for another long 2 count. Evans then grabs a few chairs and the pizza cutter. Maki absorbs a chair to the head and lands another headbutt. Maki grabs the pizza cutter and gouges away at Charli Evans! Charli comes up a bloody mess- FITE cameras did a good job staying off her for a moment while she bladed, it was pretty clear in person.
Maki continues the attack with the cutter as she has a major advantage now. Charli's tough though, and returns fire with a swinging neckbreaker. Near fall. Maki comes back with another headbutt and a pair of DDTs for a near fall of her own. Maki then applies the Cloverleaf- with the arm trapped so there's no escape- and Charli taps! Oh my god!
Winner: Maki Itoh (at 18:03)
That was a match that met the hype. One of the most anticipated matches on the whole tour, two masters just doing their thing for almost 20 minutes, equal parts violence and charisma, that was so much fun in a variety of ways. I don't recall ever seeing Charli Evans submit before! A major feather in the cap of Maki Itoh.
Post-match, Maki embraces Charli and they leave together as the crowd applauds.
Main Event: AAA Mega Championship- Gringo Loco vs. El Hijo del Vikingo
I was wondering why this was the main event over the ROW title matches, as the original advertising didn't mention this being a AAA Mega title match. Huge ovation for Vikingo! I'm not familiar with Gringo Loco, but he's a stockier luchador who's nickname is the Base God. Clever...
Super quick opening sequence with a lot of flips and cartwheels, sending the tone early. Vikingo sends Loco flying with a twisting arm drag. They have a stand off and Loco says, "no more flippy shit tonight!" We'll see about that...
A headscissors sends Loco to the outside and Vikingo prepares to dive. He nails it with a springboard sky twister press! Damn! Back in the ring, a frog splash earns Vikingo the first near fall of the contest. Loco then catches a charging Vikingo with an alley oop bomb into the turnbuckles for a near fall of his own. Loco then forgoes technique as he bites the forehead of Vikingo, earning him a "you sick f**k" chant. A gorilla press into a fallaway slam follows, with Gringo clearly being the more powerful of the two. After a couple of blistering chops, Loco bites Vikingo's nipple! Loco indeed!
Loco tosses Vikingo in the air then turns him inside out with a clothesline. The crowd had gotten on Loco's case earlier, saying, "show us your gut!" to which he replied, "you can see it!" Then someone yelled "show us your nip!" and he obliged. A true man of the people. They battle to the apron and Loco hits a wicked powerbomb on it. He then hits a double springboard moonsault back in the ring for a near fall. Hey, he lied about the flippy shit! He then misses a corkscrew moonsault, giving Vikingo an opening. He scores with a massive springboard dropkick, then a double springboard arm drag. The latter was a little messy, but still, unreal! Loco goes to the outside and is hit with a springboard dragonrana on the floor! This is like a real life video game.
Back in the ring, Vikingo hits a springboard phoenix splash for a near fall. Highlight after highlight here. Loco crotches Vikingo on the top rope- Piers Austin calls it a "taintbuster" on commentary- and he hits a massive Spanish Fly for a great near fall! Moments later, Vikingo rallies back with a double knee strike through the ropes to the floor! As they fight back to the ring though, Loco gets the better of it, with a top rope gorilla press slam! Holy shit!
They battle for supremacy on the top rope once again and Loco pushes Vikingo off- then hits him with a wicked springboard Canadian Destroyer! Somehow, Vikingo survives and returns fire with a top rope poison rana from the opposite corner! He quickly follows up with double knees across the ring. He goes up top one more time- and lands the 630 Senton! That'll do it!
Winner: El Hijo del Vikingo (at 21:17)
That was absolutely incredible. I take back what I previously said and thought about these guys being the main event over the ROW title matches. Championship or not, no one had a hope in hell of following that lucha libre spectacle. Amazing, amazing match, made even more special by the unfortunate fact that Gringo Loco suffered a concussion in his match the following night in Melbourne, rendering him unable to wrestle in Brisbane, so Sydney got the good fortune of seeing him at his absolute best against his long-time rival Vikingo, who people are starting to recognise as one of the very best luchadors in the world. I'd say that this was even better than the excellent Vikingo vs. Kenny Omega match on AEW Dynamite, it was that good. A classic in Sydney! Wishing Gringo Loco a speedy recovery.
Both companies brought it in this cross-promotional show. The bar was set high in the triple threat opener, the comedic stylings, character antics and hardcore shenanigans across the card meant that there was truly something for everyone, and as I finish this review several days after the show, having watched the matches for a second time, I'm buzzing about the whole show all over again. An excellent live experience and that main event elevated this to a must-watch on FITE (available with a FITE+ subscription).
Overall Score: 8.5/10
Until next time, keep killing it as always!